Just Right

Mike and I just returned from our weekend road trip, this time to purchase a cricket chair. We drove into the foothills of PA to a place called Duncannon, to exchange a few dollars for my soon to be just-right-for-anything chair. As a now five foot tall person, most chairs require lots of pillows, footrests and overall short use. But the cricket chair is just right. Just right memories of childhood, just right fit. Just Right. In our Maximizing Energy support groups, we have been discussing how to be good care partners, and we have come to the conclusion that…

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The Culture of Memory Care

This may not seem to be the time to talk about culture when so much of what we see as culture has migrated to virtual access. But the pandemic has given us a lens to access cultures we may have previously ignored. So, what exactly is culture? One definition defines it as the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.1 Memory care is a particular people and social group whose customs, arts and achievements have proven to be successful for individuals with dementia. Research validates this when the constructs and care of…

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Striving for IDEAL via Support Groups

Being a care partner to an individual with dementia is hard. Each stage has new challenges, and adapting to them is demanding. So, when I read the newest research on living well with dementia, my initial knee-jerk response was “great—it is all back to us—the care partner.” But the truth is, at this point in dementia care, we are the only change agents.  Improving the Dementia Experience and Enhancing Active Life, better none as the IDEAL study, is a longitudinal study looking at ‘living well’ with dementia that is being conducted in the UK that started in 2014 and will…

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Kaleidoscope of Time

Years ago, one of my school-aged children explained the shifting cognition of Granddad as a kaleidoscope. My nine-year-old said, You know mom being with Granddad is a lot like looking through the kaleidoscope. Most of the time you look in and can’t figure it out, but every once a while the light shoots straight through and then it is beautiful. So, I keep looking because you never know. I thought it was an excellent analogy of the shift in cognition we encountered with Granddad. Sometimes he was just as we remembered, aware and on target with his speech but then…

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Where Have All the Flowers Gone. . . Long Time Passing

This song comes to mind as I scan my past memory café themes, and have flashes of shared moments of joy, of memory and of amazing souls who have transitioned out of life with dementia. Making strawberry jam at Park Station with my blue-eyed wonder Jane Prompting a sweet smile from Gail Receiving a wink from Jim and a laugh Bonding over MD crab memories with Dick Basking in the gentlemanly favor of Archie Enjoying the assistance of David, always willing, always agile Enjoying Tom’s flirtatious interpretations and observations Marveling at Sid’s pleasant and polite insistence Listening intently to David’s…

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Of Mice & Men

As we move into a new world with outdoor exercise, masks, and less of our got-to exercises, research is giving us new validation on the value of exercise. Research does not always distinguish a dementia type in a study which allows us to generalize to our lives with dementia. In the case of exercise’s impact on dementia, there really are no down sides whether aerobic and or strength training. Exercise’s impact on dementia is a continually growing field of research with a recent study looking specifically at Parkinson’s Disease and long-term voluntary exercise.1 This eight week study used mice as…

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Brain Connections via Digital Connection

As the CDC continues to promote that older adults are safer at home, those of us caring for an individual with dementia may be finding our routines are suffering from lack of cognitive and social connections. Research specific to dementia care partners is still sparse, but anecdotally we are hearing care partners expressing sadness, anxiety and depression resulting from isolation. Those who had routines that included live memory cafes, social gatherings and even adult day attendance are struggling with the prolonged isolation that has resulted from staying at home as protection from COVID-19. Almost three months in, some of us…

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Dementia Comfort & COVID-19

As a dementia care partner, the global pandemic has created a new set of concerns and stressors.  Referencing the latest research may help guide you as you navigate the new care landscape. Alzheimer’s Disease International1has offered clear and concise guidance on day-to-day approaches in this graphic: These practical tips are helpful, and yet as we continue to practice Safer-at-Home, care partners may be finding their mental health at risk. ADI suggests that we need not only physical protection but also mental and psychosocial. In an overview of China’s efforts in addressing COVID-19’s impact on dementia care, the need for psychological…

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Seeking Support while Safe at Home

As dementia caregivers, many of us had some external support systems in place before the Safer at Home mandate. With support groups, memory cafes, senior centers and adult day centers closed, we are struggling to find replacements. Adapting to a new in-home routine has its challenges. Limited outdoor spaces for exercise, and increased isolation has added a new dimension to our dementia caregiving. Many are adapting to technology in order to seek support and guidance. But how effective is internet-based interventions? Research looking at psychological interventions for dementia caregivers identified four types of caregiver intervention: Psychoeducational Counseling and psychotherapy Multicomponent…

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Enduring the Pause

This season is one of a lot of symbolism in the Judeo-Christian culture. Whether it is saving an empty chair at the Passover Seder for Elijah or the wait between Good Friday and Easter Sunday—there is a pause. As a world we are experiencing a pause, with vague hopes of what will return, trepidation of what will be different. Being in the present is confounded by our internal fears, our impatience and our discomfort with change. As dementia care partners we too have many pauses, whether they are valleys of decline or plateaus of stability—the difficulty lies in staying focused…

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